Afghan Christian convert may be freed
Condoleezza Rice: Nation is in 'evolutionary state' of democracy
Television footage shows Abdul Rahman holding a translated Bible in a Kabul court Thursday.
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(CNN) -- An Afghan man possibly facing execution for converting from Islam to Christianity is expected "to be released in the coming days," a source with detailed knowledge of the case said Friday.
Word of Abdul Rahman's release comes after days of international pressure and the day before the Afghan Cabinet was scheduled to discuss the case of the 41-year-old father of two. On Thursday, top Afghan clerics urged Muslims to kill Rahman if the government freed him.
Speaking Friday to reporters in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. government is working with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government to free Rahman.
Karzai's government came to power after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the fundamentalist Taliban, an oppressive regime notorious for publicly executing people like Rahman. (Watch how Rahman's case is testing post-war Afghanistan -- 1:17)
The U.S. government has stressed to Karzai the importance of freedom of religion in a democracy, Rice said, adding that Afghanistan now has a constitution that embraces democracy rather than the autocratic mandates of the Taliban.
"We really do believe the case of Mr. Rahman needs to be resolved. That is what we are focusing on right now." Rice said. "Afghanistan is in its evolutionary state as a democratic state, and we'll have to work to resolve these contradictions as they move forward."
Rahman is charged with rejecting Islam by converting to Christianity, an offense that can be punishable by death under the Afghan constitution, which is based in sharia, or Islamic law. Rahman reportedly converted 16 years ago while he was a medical aid worker for an international nongovernmental organization.
But the case has illustrated a split in Afghanistan over the interpretation of the constitution, which calls for religious freedom while stating that Muslims who reject Islam can be executed.
Even moderate Muslims are incensed by Rahman's conversion, as top clerics on Thursday called for his execution.
"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," cleric Abdul Raoulf told The Associated Press. Raoulf has long been considered a moderate and was often at odds with the Taliban, which jailed him three times before the hard-line group's ouster in 2001. (Read about clerics joining Raoulf in calling for Rahman's death)
In a Wednesday statement, the Afghan Embassy said the government is "pursuing the best ways to resolve Mr. Rahman's case judicially" and suggested Rahman could be declared mentally incompetent to stand trial.
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